What is Project: Titan?
by Tyler Edwards, April 24, 2013
What Is Project: Titan?
If you've been active in the MMO community for any length of time, you've probably heard the name Project: Titan spoken of in reverential tones. Titan is the codename for the next MMO being produced by Blizzard Entertainment, the same people who brought us World of Warcraft.
WoW brought MMOs into the mainstream, and even nearly a decade after its release, it still maintains an unassailable position atop the MMO world. You can understand why the release of another MMO from the same company would cause a stir.
But what is Titan? We really don't know. Even the name is merely an internal codename - the game's actual title is a mystery. We can speculate, however. Hints have been dropped, and rumors fly. This article will cover some of the more commonly suggested possibilities and attempt to analyze which are the most likely.
It's far too early to even guess at details like gameplay mechanics, so we'll focus on the broad strokes: setting, lore, and overall concept.
World of StarCraft/Diablo:
A natural guess that many people make is that Titan would be based on one of Blizzard's other two major game franchises, StarCraft and Diablo. After all, World of Warcraft was based on the previous Warcraft games.
Both StarCraft and Diablo feature incredibly deep lore and big universes with plenty of potential for MMOs, and if one looks hard enough, one can find recent changes to the stories of both franchises that could be laying the groundwork for an MMO.
Diablo III shows humanity beginning to evolve into godly beings called Nephalem, a perfect premise for an MMO, and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm somewhat humanizes the alien Zerg, which could be interpreted as an attempt to make them viable as a playable MMO race.
However, one of the few things Blizzard has said about Titan is that it is an entirely new intellectual property (IP), so neither World of StarCraft nor World of Diablo are likely. Though fans who favor hats of tinfoil may see this as merely a swerve to throw us off the scent.
This also means World of Warcraft 2 is probably off the table - especially considering what a success WoW continues to be.
Blackthorne is a name known only to the most old school of Blizzard fans. It was a platformer game produced in the early '90s, around the same time as the original Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Starring a commando born on an alien world but raised on Earth, it was a bizarre mixture of fantasy and contemporary elements, featuring everything from enchanted stones to shotguns.
Some believe that Titan could be based upon Blackthorne, though admittedly there's little evidence to support the idea beyond fan speculation and the fact that Blizzard hasn't produced a new game universe since before the turn of the millennium.
The statement that Titan is new IP seems to further disprove the possibility of a Blackthorne MMO, assuming the "new IP" statement isn't just a swerve. However, it could be that Blackthorne requires so much updating to work as an MMO that it would effectively become a new IP.
Near future sci-fi:
One good source of Titan info is Blizzard's job listings. They can't avoid mentioning the game while stating what kind of expertise they need for it. The hints are vague, and many of them don't tell us anything useful, but a few interesting tidbits have popped up.
One such hint was a job posting looking for someone who could "work with major consumer brands to facilitate product placement and licensing within the world of Blizzard Entertainment's next-gen MMO that enhances the gameplay experience."
It's hard to imagine an Orcish warrior enjoying an ice cold Coke, so this is a pretty strong indication that Titan will be taking place in something very much like our own world, most likely a near future sci-fi setting.
This is a kind of game Blizzard hasn't really made yet. StarCraft is set in the distant future and features all kinds of unimaginably advanced technologies and bizarre aliens. It's almost more like fantasy than true science fiction.
It could broaden the game's appeal, as well. If they can strike a balance between sci-fi elements and a familiar world, it can appeal to both traditional sci-fi fans and those who prefer more mainstream settings. It might help to shake some of the "geek" stigma that surrounds MMOs.
Although we know little about Titan, we have some ideas about who is working on it, and some enterprising fans have used this information in an attempt to extrapolate what kind of game it could be. In particular, some have noted that personal galleries of several artists associated with Titan prominently feature steampunk artwork - a style depicting modern and futuristic technologies as they might have existed at a Victorian level of development.
Certainly, if Blizzard was working on a steampunk MMO, they would want to hire artists who already have an interest in the genre.
Admittedly, this is not much evidence to base a theory on. These were personal galleries, not related to the artists' actual work. There's no guarantee it means anything at all.
But a steampunk direction for Titan wouldn't be a half bad idea. Steampunk is very popular right now, but it's not been used as the basis for a major, AAA MMO yet. The steampunk MMOs that do exist are relatively small projects, and the major MMOs that do incorporate steampunk elements tend to do so on a very limited basis.
Blizzard is a very savvy company, so they might have realized this was a niche that still hasn't been filled. A true AAA steampunk MMO would get a lot of attention and potentially have very broad appeal, especially since steampunk can easily incorporate elements of both sci-fi and traditional fantasy.
One interesting new rumor states that the notion of Titan being a new IP isn't true. Not entirely, at least. The rumor claims that the game both is and isn't a new franchise, describing it instead as a "spin-off."
The source further claims that it is not a spin-off of Warcraft, leaving StarCraft and Diablo as the prime candidates.
This is an intriguing possibility. It fits with Blizzard's habit of sticking with their main franchises, but could also fulfill their claims of a new IP. But what form would such a spin-off take?
Probably the most likely possibility is a StarCraft game set on Earth. If you're not familiar with StarCraft lore, Earth is something of a non-factor in the StarCraft universe. All of the action takes place in the distant Koprulu Sector, and barring one brief and disastrous invasion by the United Earth Directorate in StarCraft: Brood War, Earth and the Koprulu Sector are fairly uninterested in each other.
Thus, a StarCraft game set on Earth would lack pretty much all the iconic elements of StarCraft and effectively function as a new franchise.
This would also fit well with the widespread speculation that Titan is some kind of sci-fi game, possibly post-apocalyptic. The Earth of StarCraft isn't post-apocalyptic - at least not last we heard - but it is said to be overcrowded and nightmarishly dystopian, lorded over by a ruthless and all powerful government.
This could also present the opportunity for that product placement. A future Earth might still have familiar brands.
Time traveling shenanigans:
One of the most recent rumors states that Titan is based on real world history and mythology coupled with a hefty dose of fiction. The same rumor says that time travel is a key part of the game, and that weapons will range "from magic to guns."
Further details aren't given, but the overall impression is of an epic game spanning time and space, potentially combining many disparate elements of science fiction and fantasy. Essentially throwing everything into the pot and seeing what happens.
There are other hints that could be seen to support this. For example, one of Titan's developers, Jeffrey Kaplan, was once asked if the game would be "sci-fi, near future, post-apocalyptic, or historical."
His answer was, "All of those combined!"
Another Blizzard employee thought to be connected to Titan, Cameron Dayton, once Tweeted a mysterious statement about "shifting tectonic plates, raising Atlantis, and reviving Teotihuacan."
Perhaps the best argument in favor of this theory, though, is that this sounds like a game Blizzard would make. Blizzard has always been about making games that are as over the top and badass as humanly possible. Throwing together all elements of sci-fi, fantasy, history, and mythology in one game fits that goal perfectly, and Blizzard's existing games already blur the lines of sci-fi and fantasy, fiction and reality. This seems like the logical next step.
What's the safest bet?
The time travel theory seems to be the most likely one to prove true. It sounds like something Blizzard would come up with, and it's the only possibility that could fit every rumor we've heard to date.
That being said, the other options can't be counted out. The idea of a StarCraft MMO set on Earth, in particular, makes a great deal of sense.
In the end, we'll have to wait and see. The earliest we'd be likely to get an answer is at the coming BlizzCon in November 2013.